Waited for Trade

by Matt

Another Waited for Trade column? I cannot believe it either but I managed to crank out another batch of trades. In this column I will be reviewing IDW's new G.I. Joe trade, Boom's Irredeemable, Green Lantern: Revenge of the Green Lanterns, Annihilation Book 3 and Excalibur Visionaries: Alan Davis Volume 1.

Once again I have to warn you. I do feel like I am getting better at writing reviews but I still feel like I struggle at describing events and putting down in words what my brain is saying. I will try to avoid spoilers as much as possible but I offer no promises. If you are looking for an in-depth review about a trade, this is probably not for you. At best you will get an honest review from someone who absolutely loves comics. And of course I will use the Official Bad Genious Rating System(tm).

A = Astonishing, Truly Bad Genious
B = Brainy, Brilliant
C = Commonplace
D = Dunce, Dumb, Don't Buy
F = Freakin' Crap in a Hat

Gosh, another splurge. I have a problem folks. I cannot stop buying trades! If you click on the title of the trade, it will take you directly to its listing on Amazon where you can check out prices and more reviews.

Excalibur Visionaries: Alan Davis Vol. 1
It is no secret that I love Alan Davis's work. Excalibur was my favorite comic when it came out and I was so sad when both he and Claremont left the book. Thankfully, Marvel got him to come back and not only draw, but write the book as well. This was the first major work that Alan wrote and it didn't disappoint and I didn't miss Claremont at all. This trade reprints Excalibur #42-50 and Alan solved a ton of old storylines. He gave Phoenix an official origin, explained the Captain Britain Corps and finished all of the lingering plots that Claremont left behind. He also brought in new characters such as Micromax, Cerise and Kylun and reformatted Widget. If you liked Claremont's run on the book, you HAVE to have this run. The sad thing about this run (and most of the rest of Alan's run) is that most of the origins given here have been ignored. This book is fun, Alan throws everything at you. The unique humor that Claremont established continues here, there is excellent characterization and the art is strong. There is also a feel of finality too, the whole trade is one large story that has a nice payoff at the end.
Final Word and Grade: While the stories are old and some of the plots here have been ignored, this trade is still worth getting, especially if you read and liked Claremont's run. I am also pleased to report that Marvel is publishing another volume. A

Annihilation Book 3
I finally finished the first Annihilation saga and they saved the best for last. This is not your typical Marvel cosmic story, this is war. The cosmic stuff is merely the backdrop, the war is at the forefront and we get front row tickets. I knew I was in for a treat after seeing the full splash page of Galactus battling Tenebrous and then losing! And it didn't let up from there. Griffen writes a terrific story in bringing all the major players together and giving them their own moment to shine. Ronan stands out as the breakout star of this event, we see how driven he is to uphold the Kree culture and how unwavering he is. I don't want to spoil anything major here but he has a couple of very cool moments that solidify him as a major player in the Marvel Universe. The solid art for the main Annihilation series is done by Andrea Di Vito, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists. Unfortunately, the Heralds of Galactus issues that follow the main Annihilation series are not as strong and more than likely it is because the main series was that great.
Final Word and Grade: Excellent stuff. You don't have to have knowledge of the cosmic Marvel stuff to really enjoy it. It is a war story at heart, the cosmic stuff is mostly put in the background. B

Irredeemable: Volume 1
Mark Waid is Evil! At least that is what this book tells us. I have heard excellent word-of-mouth about this book and for $9.99 how could I resist? And I am so glad that I am a sucker for cheap trades! It only took me three pages to grab me and boy it grabbed me by the throat! The story is about the Plutonian, a super hero basically like Superman or Marvelman that has become jaded and has gone bad. Now this isn't a new idea and has been done to death before, but what makes this intriguing is how former teammates, enemies and the rest of the world deals with it. Waid can pull out all the stops with this character and does an excellent job at showing how brutal a character like Superman can be if he did go bad. The art is adequate and I am sure Krause will improve as the comic continues. I am also sure Waid has some neat tricks up his sleeve and I am looking forward to the ride.
Final Word and Grade: While it doesn't tread on new ground or bring anything new to the table of a good guy going bad, it is certainly well written and the best part is that you can see the potential. And I cannot wait to see what happens next. A-

Green Lantern: Revenge of the Green Lanterns
I almost purchased something else but I thought I would give Green Lantern another try. I was surprisingly impressed with Rebirth but the last trade, No Fear was disappointing. It was okay but I expected more. I am glad that I gave Green Lantern another chance because this was really good, probably the best so far of the new series. What I like about Geoff Johns is I think he does a real good job at handling heavy continuity and giving readers just enough to understand what is going on. He also gives me enough that I want to check out the old stories too. Another one of John's strengths is that he handles small moments and makes them big. And this trade was loaded with them. From funny stuff like GL's ring has the ability to block communication from other GL's ring (much to Guy's chagrin) to serious stuff, like when he had Batman put on the ring. That moment when Bruce confronts his fears with the ring is perhaps the moment I loved most. The latter half of the trade was fantastic. Hal finds that the new GL Corp are not fans of Hal even though his name has been cleared, there is some clear resentment by the newer GL Corp members that plays off well. Hal then discovers that some of his closest GL friends that he battled when he became Parallax are found to still be alive and he goes against orders to rescue them. While it does bug me that things are being returned to status quo, at least Johns provides a creative way to bring them back and that satisfies this reader. And like the trades before, I am enjoying how the seeds of the Sinestro Wars and the Blackest Night are being foreshadowed.
Final Word and Grade: This has to be the strongest of the three GL trades so far. Lots of neat moments, nothing that made my jaw drop but was a solid superhero read from cover to cover. And that is good enough for me. C+

G.I. Joe Volume 1
I am a sucker for G.I.Joe, pure and simple. I was a fan of the old Marvel series and I rejoiced when Image revived it. But it has not been the same to me. I tried the Reborn series and the other Devil's Due series but I found it lacking. It just wasn't the same. And when I heard Chuck Dixon was rebooting the Joe franchise at IDW, I was curious but decided to wait for trade because the last few reboots were not as fun. This was probably the best out of the bunch and I am looking forward to seeing what comes next. This trade introduced the smaller Joe team with some minor changes to the original characters. Cobra is not even a force yet, it is merely a ghost organization. We hear whispers of this terrorist organization but we don't know who or what they are. This makes them even more mysterious and much more dangerous. Only a few Cobras are introduced, but sadly no Storm Shadow, Zartan and even Cobra Commander do not appear. And this adds to the intrigue. The Joe team seems still too bland but Dixon does give them some life. And the subplot of Snake Eyes being AWOL is one that does interest me. While the book doesn't offer anything really new or mind-blowing, it does scratch my Joe itch and I will get the next trades and try out IDW's other Joe books.
Final Word and Grade: This is the best and strongest Joe book in years and I am looking forward to seeing my old favorite characters slowly get introduced. If you like G.I Joe, you should get a kick out of this. If you like Dixon's writing, you will like this too. It is more serious than the Marvel run but looks like it will still have some of the more unbelievable aspects of that same run. C+

Next time will be all about one of my favorite properties, the Guardians of the Galaxy. I will review Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1, Guardians of the Galaxy: Earth Shall Overcome and The Power of Starhawk Hardcovers. In addition I will look back at Jim Valentino's run on the book in the '90s.
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Waited for Trade: More Birthday Goodness

by Matt

I am a sucker for trades. A couple of months ago I purchased some trades with some birthday money and I have noticed a trend my wife absolutely hates. Usually when I buy a batch of trades it leads to more trades. And sure enough, I splurged and bought a whole bunch more. With this batch, I reviewed Weapon Omega, Green Lantern: No Fear, Mouse Guard: Winter 1152, Annihilation Book 2, Kinetic and the highly anticipated (by yours truly) Captain Britain Omnibus.

I warned you before and I am going to warn you again, I am not the best reviewer. I struggle at describing what I think of a book in words, my fingers and mind are not always in sync. I will also try to avoid spoilers as much as possible. If you are looking for an in-depth review about a trade, this is probably not for you. At best you will get an honest review from someone who absolutely loves comics. As a reminder, I will use the Official Bad Genious Rating System(tm).

A = Astonishing, Truly Bad Genious
B = Brainy, Brilliant
C = Commonplace
D = Dunce, Dumb, Don't Buy
F = Freakin' Crap in a Hat

Are you like me? Do you buy trades and never read them for a very long time? I do this all the time. I will buy a trade and it will sit on my shelf for months before I pull it out and give it a read. So some of these trades were not recent purchases but from splurges past. If you click on the title, it will take you directly to its listing on Amazon where you can check out prices and more reviews.

Annihilation Book 2
I bought this book on the strength of the first Annihilation book, hoping that it would continue to raise the bar on Marvel Cosmic stories. It doesn't quite reach the bar set by the first volume but it was pretty close and still enjoyable to read. This volume covers the Silver Surfer, Super Skrull and Ronan characters and how they were affected by the Annihilation Wave. I am not a huge fan of any of these characters and I was surprised that the writers made me care about these characters that I normally don't give a flying fig for. The issues covering Ronan was the best part of the book. Simon Furman made Ronan and the choices he made very real and now I understand this character and I have gained more of an appreciation for him. The Silver Surfer issues were also great, I admit I didn't see where the Surfer was going in this and the decision he made was bittersweet. Griffin understood that this is what the Surfer needed to do. The Super Skrull issues were enjoyable but I felt was the weakest out of the bunch. Part of the problem was I am Skrulled-out with all the exposure the Skrulls have received lately and I felt that the art just didn't match up with the other two series. It is not that the art is bad per say, it just didn't match the feel that the other two had. It just seemed too cartoony.
Final Word and Grade: Probably the weakest of the 3 Annihilation books, but a very solid read. If you want to get to the heart of the Annihilation storyline, you could probably skip this volume and go right from the first to the third and final book. But if you want a lot of dressing with your turkey, I would recommend getting this. C+

I bought this trade awhile ago and it is one of those stories that has stayed with me since. I dig it out every so often and just glance through the pages but I end up reading it from cover to cover anyway. This is a story about this young man in high school who is extremely sick and is very unhappy. Then he gets powers that change all of it. What I really like about this book is that this was a very realistic look at what would really happen. The powers are an afterthought, it is how it changes him and his relationships, and this is what this trade is about. The writing is well done, the pacing just leaves the reader wanting more, the dialogue rings true and the art just exemplifies how Tom (the young man) is feeling. The art and coloring may put off some people but I thought for the most part it enhanced the story. The dull gray coloring choice for Tom and his mother is a perfect example of how Tom sees themselves. Dull and boring and dark. There are moments in this book that made me a little uncomfortable but I think that is why I like it so much.
Final Word and Grade: If you are looking for a different take on superheroes and powers, this is for you. If you enjoy teenage angst, this is for you as well. And for ten bucks you get the whole series! B+

Weapon Omega TPB
Now this was a lot of fun. Originally this was published in the short-lived Marvel Comics Presents and I skipped them because I had no interest in the other stories and was happy when Marvel was publishing all the Weapon Omega stories in one trade. As a lifelong Alpha Flight fan I was not very happy with the useless slaughter of the old Alpha Flight team, in particular the passing away of Guardian. Guardian was more about the power suit and one of the best looking costumes around than him being James Hudson. I hated the character of Michael Pointer when he first appeared and I hated the fact that a non-Canadian got to wear that costume. I was pleasantly surprised by this story though. The writer managed to change my mind about the character of Michael, I still am not a fan of how he came to be but I really liked what has been done to him in this book. He is a tragic character, he does not want these powers and he feels inadequate and is filled with guilt. By the end, he is more comfortable with his role of being Guardian. There were some nice twists and some great character moments with Michael and his other Omega teammates. The only thing that I didn't like was that the art was not completely drawn by Andrea Di Vito. Di Vito is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists and his rendition of Guardian was perfect. His soft pencils reflected how insecure Guardian was. Checchetto finished the last four parts of the book and his a pretty good artist in his own right but doesn't compare with Di Vito.
Final Word and Grade: I am sure this was overlooked by many Marvel fans but this should be picked up. If you like B-list characters and the Omega Flight series you will like this book. I went into it with no expectations and came out very satisfied. Great superhero stuff. B

Mouse Guard Volume 2: Winter 1152
Very rarely do I find a sequel that works better than the original but this is one that does. I thought that the first Mouse Guard was charming. This isn't one of those books where the creator has an idea and just goes with it. This is a book that is extremely detailed and obviously planned way ahead. You can easily feel and see the passion that Petersen has for his concept, which definitely makes up for any small inadequacies. This volume continues the adventures of the mice from the first volume and moves the story of the Black Axe even further. There are some very nice moments in here, the battle with the owl, the journey through the ice and snow and my favorite, the Weasel labyrinth and the bats. Well-written and the art is almost flawless. Exquisite paints and colors really bring this world alive. And the conclusion left me wanting more.
Final Word and Grade: The first volume of Mouse Guard was fun and I was happy about the sequel when they announced it but this takes it up a notch. Now at the conclusion of this volume I am impatiently awaiting the next installment. The only drawback is that it is a fairly quick read. If you like Castle Waiting or Bone, I highly recommend getting this. A-

Green Lantern: No Fear
Green Lantern: Rebirth caught me by surprise as a fun read so I decided to try out more of GL's adventures. I was not disappointed by it but nothing really stood out either. There are a few things that I really liked, the rebuilding of Coast City, the small hints foreshadowing the Blackest Night but in particular I was impressed by the prelude by Darwyn Cooke. His story of Hal taking Kyle Rayner out for a ride in a jet while in flashback we see Hal's dad doing the same thing with Hal was a nice, quiet moment that showed readers what type of person Hal is. I originally thought Hal was a cocky jerk but this story showed me Hal's good side and it comes off more confident than cocky. The rest of the trade was good but nothing spectacular. The story at times did lose me a little because I have absolutely no familiarity with Green Lantern at all but that doesn't bug me as much as it might with some other readers who are trying this for the first time. I don't mind not knowing everything about the characters, if it intrigues me, I'll investigate it further. The change in art chores did seem to take some flow out, especially since the artists were not similar at all. All are good artists but it just seemed out of place. I will say that I think this was Simone Bianchi's best work.
Final Word and Grade: A little bit of a let down from the GL: Rebirth series and I expected a little more of a bang out of the gates. That is not to say that this was bad, it just wasn't strong. Still, it was enjoyable enough to get the next trade. C

Captain Britain Omnibus
I saved the best for last. Gosh, I could go on and on and gush about this book but I will try to control myself. This was on the top of my wish list for Marvel’s line of Omnibus and this didn't disappoint at all. Captain Britain is one of my favorite characters and this reprints some of his best appearances. This huge volume reprints a ton of his early stuff starting with Alan Moore's fantastic run. Alan's Mad Jim Jasper storyline is one of my favorite runs of all time with some great moments. Alan understands that Brian Braddock is not a perfect person and is weighed down by the heavy responsibility of being Captain Britain. He is flawed and says and does things that are not always in the right. I will never forget his second battle with the Fury (he dies in the first one!) and he and some other heroes barely escape with their lives. He asks what they should do with Captain UK (who had come from another dimension) and Saturnyne replies that she needs a place to stay and some clean clothes. Cap replies, "Why should she get special treatment? Everybody's wet." Saturnyne replies coldly, "Not wet like her. She's wet because she was very frightened. Grow up Captain." And did you know that Miracle Man was killed during this run?

The volume continues into Jamie Delano's run which I prefer over Alan Moore's run. This introduces Meggan and shows his memorable battles against Slaymaster and the evil Kaptain Britain, who tries to have his way with his sister Betsy. Betsy later becomes the new Captain Britain and fails and Brian is forced to come back and take the mantle once again. Delano's run is much underrated compared to Moore's run and is not even an afterthought but I see Delano's run as just as good, if not better. This volume also reprints New Mutants Annual #2 (Psylocke's first American appearance) and one of my favorite comics of all time, Uncanny X-Men Annual #11. The X-Men Annual is what introduced me to Alan Davis and to Captain Britain and I have been a huge fan ever since. Also reprinted is Captain America #305-306 which does not compare to the rest but is still fun to read. Even though Captain Britain seems like a wimp in these issues.

There is also a ton of bonus material. All the covers are reprinted, early sketches of Alan Davis designing the new Cap costume, a Short History of Britain, written By Alan Moore from the 70's, promo posters, bios, pin ups, never-before-reprinted short strips that accompanied the main story and ALL the bonus material from the earlier published trades and X-Men Archives, including those covers as well. Whew! That is a load of bonus stuff!
Final Word and Grade: Very biased grade here but this has to be my all-time favorite book. Anyone who enjoys Alan Davis or Captain Britain needs to pick up this book. Just as a warning, this does contain Alan Davis's earliest work and is not as polished as his art is today. It can be pretty rough at times but you might not notice as much as you will be enthralled by the story. A+

I still have loads of trades to read. Hopefully sometime soon I will be reviewing Annihilation Book 3, Batman/Grendel, Punisher Max Vol 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1, BOOM's Irredeemable and Guardians of the Galaxy: Earth Shall Overcome and The Power of Starhawk Hardcovers.
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by Brandon

It's time again for a round robin of topics on comic book collecting. This week I discuss bad behavior from fans, the comic news lull, Marvel second features, and a cool cover from Booster Gold. Let's get started.

Learn Some Respect!
I feel like an old man shaking my fist for the above title, but it fits so well. This could all be filed under the Fanboy Jerk of the Year category. Recently at the Chicago Comic Con, comic book fan Ryan Coons approached fan-favorite whipping boy Rob Liefeld. He wasn't a fan asking for an autograph or a fan attempting to talk with a beloved creator to show his appreciation. Instead, Ryan Coons approached Liefled for one reason: he wanted to berate him about his handling of Captain America. From a decade ago. Coons literally asked Liefeld for an apology. This didn't really take guts. It took a good dash of immature idiocy. He did not do this once. In fact, on his second round of insulting, he handed Liefeld a copy of How to Draw the Marvel Way. Awesome.

While some juvenile fans snickered, many fans and creators noted that this was at best the lowest form of fan behavior and at least improper behavior in general. It was nice to see tons of creators throw their scorn onto this yellow-hat moron.

Comic book fans have a stigma of being overly picky. While I think there are definitely some curmudgeon's in the crowd, comic fans are not all that way. Idiotic behavior such as Ryan Coons', however, reflects poorly on all of us. The next time you spy a creator you don't like, just walk and find someone you do respect. This all goes back to something we all should have learned in grade school: if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. If a fan goes out of his way to insult a creator he doesn't like, it is time to get a life.

I guess comic fans should remember that we don't own these characters. They don't belong to us no matter how much we love them or how long we have collected them. Comic book publishers are bound to publish stores that we don't like. It's just going to happen. Insulting creators, even those we may not enjoy, accomplishes nothing. It's a matter of human decency. There is a way to let others know your displeasure without looking like some kind of nincompoop that doesn't get out of his parent's basement often.

I should point out that I'm not defending Rob Liefeld's work here at all. I'm not really familiar with his work as I was never a big fan. I am saying that fans should treat creators better. That goes for online work. Don't threaten to blow up Vertigo's offices or hand Rob Liefeld copies of drawing books. Again, I'm sure Ryan Coons or any number of indignant fans could find much better things to do with their spare time than become trolls.

I think most comic fans are good people. They are salt of the earth. But it's jerks like Ryan Coons who give us a bad name. Maybe we fans should be less tactful and accepting of such poor behavior.

Comic Book News Lull
Ever since the San Diego Comic Con blew out of Comic Book Town, comic news has been slow. I know it happens every year, but it seems like this year was especially bad. It seemed like news sites such as Newsarama and CBR ran on CCI fumes for around two weeks after CCI before they attempted to run anything new. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but more like the truth than actual fiction.

Chicago did bring a trickle of news, with the aforementioned moron Ryan Coon's taking the cake. But there wasn't anything Earth or Internet smashing. Marvel's big news about acquiring Marvelman still has fans buzzing, but more about the lack of news than anything Marvel has actually announced. DC is still heavily trumpeting their Care Bear's by way of Zombies with rings shindig Blackest Night.

That's pretty much it. Nothing to see. Move along.

Where are the Marvel Second Features?
Though DC routinely gets trounced in monthly sales, the grand old party of comic books realizes that offering a second feature makes $3.99 comics more palatable to fans. I think DC realizes that $3.99 isn't going to keep fans coming to the well if all fans are getting is 22-pages of comic book. At least it makes it easier for me to justify spending the extra dollar on a book with a second story.

As the DC program took off, rumors swirled about Marvel adding second features to their books. Yet CCI and Chicago passed by without firm announcements. So, where are they? Marvel's argument that they are just offsetting costs would be fine if they eased the financial strain a bit. Instead, Marvel keeps forking $3.99 books at us hoping we'll just keep buying them without any added content.

Instead of making crappy miniseries or ongoing series that get canned within six issues, why not add them as second features? Exiles, a recent cancellation, comes to mind. I'm sure there are several books that would love to adopt that little slice of comic book revelry. It's an opportunity for Marvel to make $3.99 books easier on our wallets, give some titles and characters another chance, and bring in more fans to already existing books. Maybe we'll something soon. Surely Marvel can't be in the dark about this, can they?

Cool Cover Alert
I saw this cover on the newsstand of a local comic book shop this weekend. Booster Gold covers never really strike me as being awesome, but I thought this one was great.

My attraction to this issue might have something to do with the fact that G4's Blair Butler (who is insanely beautiful) is featured on the cover. I'm not sure.

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Summer Reading, pt. 6

by Brandon

This is it. This is the end. I start back to work in two days. Students start back a week thereafter. I would lying if I said I wanted to go back to work. Let me state emphatically that I do not. This summer has been crazy busy and I don't feel like my brain has had enough time to defrag from last school year. Like it or not, though, my days of freedom are dwindling. Luckily, I have been able to read a ton of comics this summer and have been able to catalogue my new comic book experiences here for all to read on the big, bad Internet. In this last edition of summer reading, I review new books from the Batman reboot, a milestone for Savage Dragon, the awesome Unwritten, and several Star Wars books.

Captain America: Reborn #2
I know I reviewed my latest batch of Marvel books last week, but I decided to give Captain America: Reborn another shot. The first issue fell kind of flat for me for two reasons: the same two reasons this issue fell flat for me. What a coincidence? My first major reason is that I am an outsider to this title. I'm one of those people Marvel roped into buying this through the hype. I'm probably a chump for doing so, but impulse buys can sometimes pay off. I'm the type of outside person Marvel is hoping will buy this. Yet, an outsider is all I feel like. I have no real connection to the characters or events outside of the larger context that the event/non-event Dark Reign that is going on and Norman has some kind of mad-on to make sure he gets Cap first. Which brings me to my second problem. This just doesn't feel real to me. This can't really be how Marvel is bring Captain America back? It seems to out there for Brubaker's reputation. This second issue did little to clear up the mechanism of how a magic bullet is able to bring Captain America back by sticking him in time. It's weak for a return that surely have been planned from word one when they decided to kill Steve Rogers off at the end of Civil War.

Batman & Robin #2
Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely are probably the best creative team in comic books working past, present, or future. They just hit the ground running with whatever they do together, a synergy that clicks. The second issue of the new Batman & Robin series has some great character moments with just about everyone in the book. Alfred is comfortable in the mentor role and Damian is too in his role as the would be jerk. The dynamic between the new Batman and Robin is still tense. And while I think it's a bit too early to play the "Robin runs off on his own" card, it just seems to work here. The editorial bigwigs over at DC should pat themselves on the back. The Batman books haven't been this blessed with this caliber of creative talent in a long time, if ever.

Detective Comics #855
Speaking of talent on the Bat books, another one of the titles that is currently blessed is Detective Comics. While Rucka's story here is weaker than the last issue, it still plays off well. A large part of that is due to the gorgeous artwork provided by J.H. Williams III. Batwoman spent a large part of this issue tripping, which works more towards the artist's strength rather than the writer. If Morrison and Quitely are the best team, then Williams is the best stand alone artist. Each page is a joy to look at. The second feature with the Question was still "meh" for me.

Fables #85
Now back on regularly scheduled programing, this issue of Fables stands out as one of the better single-issue stories in the run thus far. That may be in large part due to following up the so-so crossover of the last few months. Mr. Dark is a menacing villain and we get a slight peak here of what he was like and where he came from. Willingham's story almost reaches new heights here, while guest penciller Jim Fern does an outstanding job of providing artwork worthy of any regular issue out of the series. This new, yet darker era for Fables looks like it is going to be fertile for new stories. Some fans wondered if Willingham was going to be able to continue to write great comics for Fables once the Adversary was out of the way. It's issues like these that prove Willingham can actually out do himself.

The Unwritten #3
Holy crap! This is the best new series on the stands now. To use an over-used baseball analogy, Mike Carey and Peter Gross are hitting the ball out of the park with every issue. This title is everything you want out of a Vertigo title. It's literary and edgy, smart and funny, mysterious and fantastical. Carey manages to keep the story of Tom Taylor dealing with his alter ego of Tommy Taylor going strong without really focusing on the fictional Tommy Taylor this issue. Instead, we get an examination of Frankenstein and a solid argument between assembled writers on why horror works. This is such a well-written series that it's hard to find fault with anything Carey and Gross have done thus far. Could this be the best book out now? Possibly, but if you haven't gotten on board yet, what's your excuse?

The Savage Dragon #150
Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon hit a milestone few independent comics ever reach with this 150th issue. It is such an achievement for him and not just in term with numbers. Savage Dragon isn't the best book on the stands. I don't think it ever will be. However, it is one of the most entertaining reading experiences a comic fans can have. The amount of zany ideas per square inch here beat out any comic book being published right now. It's hard to read a Savage Dragon comic and not catch a bit of Larsen's infectious love for this character. The title on the cover states that this issue was the biggest bargain in comic." 100 pages for $5.99? Yeah, that's awesome, especially when many Marvel and DC books cost you just two bucks less for barely 22 pages worth of story. For that, fans get a ton of extras on top of the regular story for this issue. Included here are Savage Dragon #0, Lev Gleason Publishing's Daredevil #18 (not that Daredevil), a Vanguard story, and several small strips just for fun. And I shouldn't forget the always interesting letter column. For fans old and new, this issue is great for someone wanting to scratch their comic book itch. I can promise it's not going to be the next Watchmen, but does every comic need to be? Just have fun reading this one. I did.

Conan the Cimmerian #12
I gushed last month about how awesome Conan has been since the rebooting to Conan the Cimmerian. I don't have that much to add this month in terms of praise because this book is still very entertaining. "Black Colossus" is one of those classic Robert E. Howard stories that is hard to mess up. It has everything you would want from a Conan story: love, war, and lots of kick ass art. Though I'm already familiar with the story, Truman and Giorello inject so much life into this story that is fresh once again.

Star Wars Extravaganza:
I'm going to be dorky and write a review haiku for each of these issues. It's a) something different and b) risk free because no one is reading.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars #7
So pedestrian
Can anyone make this good?
Not even the Jedi

Star Wars: Invasion #1
Based on book series
Why not follow Yoda's lead?
Please do or do not

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #43
John Jackson Miller
Must Zayne always save the day?
Isn't he clumsy?

Star Wars: Legacy #38
Poor Cade Skywalker
Trapped real drunk on Tatooine
Look, bounty hunter
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How To Make A Character Lame: The Punisher

by Brandon

Not all comic books are equal.

We fans all know that. Some comic books are just better than others. Many times it is an isolated incident. But there are some instances where a character is treated poorly over a long period of time. Sometimes is laughably bad. Sometimes it can be downright insulting to the fans.

All superhero books don't necessarily make the title characters out to be great. In fact, many longtime comic book characters have had their fair share of lame moments. One of the longest suffering characters to the disease of inequity is Frank Castle, The Punisher. Here are the five worst turns for poor Frank Castle.

Make Punisher Black
Yeah. Marvel hit some pretty bad lows in the 1990s. There probably isn't a better example than when Marvel turned Punisher black. It sounds wacky now, but someone at Marvel had to think, "This is freaking great!" at the time. It went down like this...

The Final Days story arc had gone for seven issues, including the seventh part which was a conclusion of sorts. Frank castle had been pursued by the Kingpin's sinister agents even into prison where a group of thugs led by Jigsaw carved Frank's face ala the aforementioned Jigsaw. Frank manages to escape prison, but he was still being harassed by a group of Kingpin's goons. At this point, any sensible vigilante would know that it was time to change his appearance. Frank hooks up with a drug addict underground plastic surgeon. They are apparently more easily accessible than one might imagine. Franks task her with making him unrecognizable... and she does.

I think Frank was just as shocked as anyone. What follows is a stereotypical and humorous romp through any preconceived notion white folks had about the treatment of blacks in America in the 1990s. What's the first damn thing that happens in issue #60 when Frank gets on the road? That's right: he gets pulled over in a gross miscarriage of racial profiling. Of course, Frank doesn't want to play by their rules. One cop asks him, "What's the matter, boy? Cat got your tongue?" When there is no answer, another cop whacks Frank in the back, saying, "Maybe the coon's got his tongue!" Frank proceeds to beat some ass, but the righteous ass whipping that follows is not carried off without some help.

In the 1990s, if you were going to be turned black, you could only have a few other black superhero friends. So Frank had the Falcon, Blade, or Luke Cage to choose from. Of course, if you wanted to be the baddest m&%^#$ f%^&*# on the block, the winner had to be Luke Cage. Awesome. Once Cage gets in on the fight and spirits Punisher away from the scene, they go back to Cage's hood. What do they find there? A drug dealer pushing his product on a kid playing basketball. Yeah... Marvel P.C. at its best. By the end of issue #60, Marvel readily declares the team-up as being between BLOOD BROTHERS.

But don't worry. He got better. By issue #62, apparently the mafia couldn't stand him being black and forced him back into his normal digs. I mean, come on, white bread America couldn't take a black dude waxing drug addicts and criminals. That type of righteous indignation can only be reserved for white Vietnam veterans.

Anywhere a reader steps in the four issues dealing with the black Punisher he or she is bound to find something laughably objectionable. This was an instant WTF classic. Despite my heavy trading of comics when I was kid, I always held onto these issues from when I bought them back in '91. Recommended for the sheer Borat-style laughs you will get.

Make Punisher Kitschy
The Punisher was everywhere in the 1990s. If your book didn't have Punisher in it, then you pretty much sucked. One of the oft mentioned stories that featured Punisher was the Archie crossover. The 1990s were rife with ill-conceived crossovers. That's part of their charm, I suppose. But thankfully we've moved past the need to have crossovers and events book that are meant to only move books instead of telling decent stories. Right?

The story takes place in idyllic Riverdale, U.S.A. The Punisher is in pursuit of a criminal that looks oddly enough like mild mannered Archie Andrews. Hilarity ensues as Archie and this nefarious lookalike intertwine in mesh of zany fun and good humor. Punisher does pull a gun on Archie. You don't get to see that everyday at Riverdale High. No, sir.

For added kitsch value, the Marvel edition of this featured a die cut cover. Nothing says awesome crossover like an enhanced cover. For the record, I own both versions. I'm not ashamed to admit that.

Make Punisher an Angel/Demon Thingy
The decline of the Punisher in the early to mid 1990s is a cautionary tale of too much of one thing really is too much. Most people remember that Spider-Man and Wolverine were appearing all over the Marvel Universe, but Punisher was also everywhere during this time, like the Archie crossover mentioned above. Once this overexposure and lackluster revivals completely panned out, there was really only one option left.

Kill the Punisher.

Of course, this being comics, that only meant he was going to come back... in the employee of heaven. Or was it hell? I forget which one, thankfully. The two miniseries that spawned out of this wellspring of creativity(one solo, one with Wolverine) were just terrible. They are pretty much universally accepted by all Punisher fans as the low point in a career of some pretty shitty stuff. Garth Ennis thankfully cleaned the slate with Welcome Back Frank by ignoring any developments during that dark time.

Recently, I did manage to see copies of the first miniseries at a local shop for $5 each. This retailer assumes that you are a chump.

Make Punisher Blow Up Cars in the Shape of a Skull
I have go tot be honest with you here: I actually like the various Punisher films. I'll let that sink in a minute.

Finished? Good. Knowledge is power and now that you have been informed, we can continue.

The year 2004 saw the first attempt from Lion's Gate to revive The Punisher movie franchise (if one can call it that). I can admit that there were some dumb scenes in all three Punisher movies, but the dumbest of all is the final scene of this Thomas Jane fueled film. Punisher came off as more The Manipulator throughout this film. He plotted long and hard to get back at John Travolta's character. I mean, really hard. Not only does Punisher end up waxing his guy in the final showdown of the film, he places a bunch of elaborate bombs around a car lot in order to make a skull shaped firebomb in the explosion. Really. He does that.

Yeah... I just hope all of his enemies were flying that night, otherwise it might have been hard for them to get his oh so subtle message. It would have been a waste of all his hard effort for them to be just toking up or shooting someone while he sent his fiery warning to the underworld.

Make Punisher Frankenstein
The thing that most Punisher fans like about the character has nothing to do with the fantastical world he inhabits. Most fans enjoy the Punisher because he isn't fantastical. He's real. He was never washed in gamma radiation. Nor was never bitten by an irradiated insect. As a child, Frank Castle wasn't rocketed to earth as the last survivor of a dying race. And he sure as hell wasn't born with mutated genes. The Punisher was born out of a terrible situation in which his family was murdered, with his experiences in Vietnam painting an important backdrop. He never needed superpowers to be who he was. He didn't need other worldly improvements.

We Punisher fans just like him the way he is. Punisher doesn't need to change.

Detractors are quick to point out that comic fans are just too stuck in their ways and don't allow for change. Let's be frank: there is change and there is stupid change. Changing Punisher's race, the tone of his books, or his super powers are all certainly changes. Stupid, idiotic, and absolutely rotten changes, but changes nonetheless. Changing things up for the sake of it isn't really innovative. It can be downright harmful to the character.

If Marvel feels the need to change the character, so be it. But is it necessary to change the fundamentals of the character? Any Punisher reader can already paint the idiotic "reset button" story that will have to be done because this change can't last long. But it is unnecessary. Punisher is getting a little long in the tooth. If we need a refresher, retcon his experiences from Vietnam to Iraq or Afghanistan. Don't wholesale what makes the character great.

But it looks like some major changes are in store for the Marvel Universe version of Punisher. That's too bad because Rick Remender seems to be a great writer. For at least the first few issues of the new relaunch it appeared he actually got the character. Turning Frank Castle into Frankenstein isn't exactly proof of that now. It's zany and crazy, but not in the good way. If anything, we fans are either going to be getting more Kitschy Punisher or a horror infused Punisher. Either way, we fans will just have to wait and see where our favorite character is going to now.
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Summer Reading, pt. 5

by Brandon

The penultimate article of my summer reading series has arrived! That lusty picture to the left isn't here just to fit our monthly T&A quotient! No sir, we have more taste than that around these parts.

My monthly shipment of new comics arrived Monday afternoon and I was stoked to read up on all the things I'd seen floating around the vast Internet the past few weeks. The first things I read were my Marvel titles. I'm a shameless Marvel Zombie, I can admit to that, but I would be a liar if I didn't say that some of the Marvel books I have been reading have been a little lackluster lately.

But was I disappointed or elated this month? Read on.

The Invincible Iron Man #15
What can I say about the "World's Most Wanted" arc that I haven't already said? The plodding storyline continues on into part 8. I don't mind a longer story if there is actually a story to tell. But Invincible Iron Man has become a book where Tony Stark is on the run... and that's pretty much it. This story could have easily been condensed down, but because it has to fit within the framework of the Dark Reign non-event event, we get a seemingly unending stream of escapes and near-misses. Tony Stark may be losing his mind, but I'm losing my patience. Do something here, Fraction. Anything. Please?

Frank Castle: The Punisher #72
Most of the Punisher Max arcs are serious and grounded in a harsh reality that is hard to take at times. But Garth Ennis wisely broke up the intensity every now and then with a humorous arc. Victor Gischler deftly follows in Ennis' footsteps here by giving the reader fun, yet characteristically violent romp with Frank Castle in "Welcome to the Bayou." Stylistically, this reminds me of the film 2,000 Maniacs on some level. There isn't a supernatural angle working here, but the idea of Podunk rednecks in the Louisiana Bayou trapping outsiders for their own nefarious purposes is ridiculous and entertaining all at once. There are several laugh out loud lines here, surprisingly delivered by Frank Castle. Goran Parlov, Punisher Max veteran artists, provides complimentary art to the outlandish send up. The appearance of the gangbanger in the back of Frank's car at the end of the issue is sure to throw a new wrench into the hectic story. This book is highly recommended if you want to find a solid book with dark humor.

Punisher #7
D-listers unite! Ah... Rick Remender apparently has plans to turn Frank into Frankenstein in his upcoming "Rest in Pieces" arc, but for now readers have to settle for Frank icing the D-List All-Stars the Hood has assembled to take out Punisher. The thing that makes Punisher work so well in the Marvel Universe is that he was very different from your average costumed bear. He didn't deal with the fantastical all that much despite it being right next door. He was detached from the spandex set, but had a purpose. I just don't see that purpose coming out of this incarnation of Punisher. Frank Castle gunning after the D-Lister All-Stars just doesn't seem right or appropriate for the character. This just doesn't feel right. If the preview images are any indication, that feeling of trepidation is going to stick around for a little while.

Ultimatum #5
Speaking of feelings of trepidation, the final issue of Ultimatum finally hit the shelves last week. The verdict? Ugh. To be fair, it was a lot better than I expected. Though it seemed like half the book's pages were splash-pages (I wish I were exaggerating), Loeb has set up an interesting environment for the post-Ultimatum Ultimate universe. Let's all just forget the fact that he had to commit character genocide in order to establish this setting, but it worked. Mutants are on the run and heroes everywhere are dead. A vacuum has been created story wise and that can be fertile ground for storytelling in the near future. But was it worth it? Loeb has been criticized up and down, and rightly so, for his wholesale butchering of the Ultimate Universe. There are too many cooks in the kitchen now and with any luck he will be exiting out through the back. With Millar, Bendis, and Ellis at the helm for the Ultimate Comics relaunch, perhaps fans can expect better and brighter days ahead for the Ultimate Universe.

Ultimatum Spider-Man Requiem #2
The story here was solid, but like the previous issue, it seemed more like a rejected story from the regular run. J. Jonah Jameson was a great choice for narrating this story, but the narration doesn't have the weight it should have. Hulk meets Spider-Man, they fight, and Hulk shows a human side. You can find a thousand Hulk stories out there like this. Why was this one so special? Because Spider-Man was there? Because a busload of kids got saved? Come on. Ultimate Spider-Man can do better than this. Maybe it will in the future, but for now these last few issues of volume one have done nothing to add to the great stories that came before it.

X-Force #17
This beginning of this issue disappointed me some. Messiah War was more dud than stud, and here we get transported back to the climax of the previous arc t wrap things up there. It was a bit confusing for me to remember what had happened a few months prior to this and why I should care. The Leper Queen climax wasn't even a climax... it just kind of ended.To quote the actual book, "boom." I'm not terribly impressed with that particular framing device, but I'll live. At least I hope I do. Things get messy quick for the team when they get back. The pace of the book is frantic and that works well within the scope of what is going on at the UN and on the streets. Any hope of this team being kept a little secret has to be vanishing fast if the pages of this issue are any proof. By the end of the issue, this title was back into my good graces with its action and frenetic pacing.

X-Men Legacy #226
This issue marks the beginning of a new era for X-men Legacy. Rogue's team barely has a chance to breathe before being thrust into the actions of the Utopia crossover. Though the issue wasn't a bad read, it seemed like Rogue, Danger, and Gambit spent the entire issues putting out little fires instead of actually focusing on the main blaze. Like Elvis, Jesus, and Santa Claus, they were just everywhere. It was like Mike Carey got ADD during the writing of this crossover. There is a lot going on around town, I'm sure, but a more focused approach could help flesh out this book. And this book has been very focused in the past year.

Uncanny X-Men #513
I'm not going to mince words here; I think Fraction got moved to the big leagues a bit too quickly with Uncanny X-Men. I know I've mentioned it before, but Uncanny X-Men should scream UNCANNY EFFIN' X-MEN! This does not scream that. This barely whimpers it. This issue finds the uncanny X-Men wacthing the action... on television. What? This is UNCANNY EFFIN' X-MEN! Where's the larger than life action? Instead, we get a lot of scenes with mutants we don't give a rat's ass about. Adam X? What rock did they find that loser under? Trust me, we x-fans don't give a shit about Adam X. I know I was kind of hoping his ass would get handed to him by someone big like Ares. Maybe his head will get smashed in or ripped in half. I don't know, but it would be cool. Let's work on that, guys.

I'll be back in a few days with the final article on my summer reading habits. I'll be reviewing the most recent issues of Fables, Savage Dragon, Batman & Robin, Detective Comics, the various Star Wars titles, and Conan. Until then...

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Marvelous Possibilities

by Brandon

Marvel's announcement that they own Marvelman at the San Diego Comic Con in late July 2009 was a welcome surprise for many fans. Why? Because Marvelman has been in legal purgatory for many, many years. That is the Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman version. Though it's still not clear whether that paramount work or not remains under Marvel's publishing purview or not, it is clear that Marvel can does plan on publishing new Marvelman material. I can just see the line queuing up outside Joe Quesada's office in New York with writers chomping at his heels to get a chance to write this character. But who are these writers?

I submit to you my humble list of writers who I think should, could, and probably would tackle Marvel's newly minted Marvelman.

Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman comes to mind immediately. I think that it is highly probable that Marvel will get Gaiman for an arc or two, maybe even a miniseries. They wouldn't get him for longer, but he's been involved in this whole legal process for a while. He also wrote Marvel's 1602 in the hopes of funding said legal battle. It would have been fruitless of him to have spent such time and effort in this process to not get a shot at writing Marvelman in any form. It would be great if he could continue and finish the story he started, but it would also be awesome if he did anything with the material. I think Marvel would at least give him the initial stab at writing Marvelman, perhaps by launching with a miniseries.They have a good working relationship that I don't see hindering Gaiman's inclusion.
Vegas Odds: Marvel publishing books with an "X" on the front cover.

Mark Millar
Though he's pretty busy these days, Mark Millar can bring a crowd to pretty much anything. I think Millar could do a good job with the Marvelman character, but he has to realize sensationalizing this character just doesn't seem right. He has a penchant to make things be a bit too dramatic. Millar can definitely bring pizazz, for better or worse, when it comes to writing comic books. He's a staple around Marvel and one of two jewels (along with Bendis) in modern Marvel's crown.
Vegas Odds: Ultimate Captain America insults France again.

Grant Morrison
Wishful thinking on my part, but damn it could be cool to see Grant Morrison on this title. However, Morrison seems to be content at Dc doing whatever the hell it is he is doing this month. I don't think Marvel would give Morrison the total freedom to be as deliciously weird as he could be with Marvelman.
Vegas Odds: Final Crisis becoming readable.

Brian Michael Bendis
Bendis would be the safe bet for Marvel since he's kind of their "go to guy" for all things big, but I doubt anything of interest would happen due to his allergy to adding immediacy to his comics. He's a good writer, but I just don't think he gets characters like this. Like I said of Millar, he's a staple of modern Marvel. Chances are he gets a crack at this character, but that's only after Gaiman passes on the job or moves on after completion of his story.
Vegas Odds: Already writing 83% of Marvel books.

Jeph Loeb
Oy. Marvel's been giving this guy a ton of work lately. I'm only familiar with the Ultimatum side of the equation, but man, that book sucks badly. Yet... Marvel seem to be very keen on him now. If you read anything coming out from the house of ideas, they just love this guy! I don't even think that's P.R. They seem to be genuinely pleased with his current output even though it's late and many fans deride it as being on par with watching a Michael Bay movie. But he sales comic books.
Vegas Odds: Blob eating Wasp's guts out with chocolate syrup on top. And sprinkles!

Mike Carey
Carey is kind of a pick from left field on this property, but he's a solid writer. He's proven himself with numerous titles, but may be too busy for a turn at Marvelman between X-Men: Legacy and The Unwritten. However, his style seems like it would fit in perfectly with at least the Moore and Gaiman run.
Vegas Odds: Emma Frost starts wearing sensible, frumpish clothes.

Brian K. Vaughn
Vaughn is another "out there" pick since he seems to be more on the way out of the comic book medium in lieu of television and movies. However, with the recent announcement that he would not be on this season of Lost, Vaughn might have some free time in the future to pursue a comic book comeback. This probably would never happen, but I would love to see more from Vaughn and this would be a great chance for a double return; Marvelman's back, and so is Brian K. Vaughn.
Vegas Odds: Y the Last Man movie shot as a porn.

Matt Fraction
Matt Fraction is another guy who is getting a ton of work at Marvel these days. His work at Marvel thus far has been good, but not great. I just don't think Fraction has enough clout in the industry yet to pull off an assignment like this. His rise to prominence seems too fast. There's been absolutely nothing in his previous work that I think would even put him in the same league as Alan Moore or Ne4il Gaiman. I think he could pull the Marvel fans in, but that's pretty much the extent of his drawing power. Yet... hes gotten some pretty high profile assignments as of late. Matt Fraction is someone to watch in all of this.
Vegas Odds: Spider-Man appearing by issue three.

Alan Moore
I know. Yeah, right. This would probably never happen, but damn it would sweet, wouldn't it. Alan Moore doesn't strike me as someone who revisits the past much if ever, and Marvelman seems like the distant past for him.
Vegas Odds: Quasar becomes first book in years to sell over a million units.
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